DHS Boss Drums Up Fear Using The FBI's Useless Terrorism Investigation Stats

from the [extremely-Count-Floyd-voice]-'threat-assessments-ooooooooh' dept

Want to know how much of a threat terrorism poses to the United States? Just ask an agency whose relevance and budget depends on projecting the appearance of a constant threat. Here's John Kelly, the new head of the DHS:

The threat to our nation and our American way of life has not diminished. In fact, the threat has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago.

As I speak these words the FBI has open terrorism investigations in all 50 states, and since 2013, there have been 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack our country.

The problem with swearing on a stack of FBI statements is these assertions are completely meaningless. The FBI's a well-oiled terrorist-crafting machine at this point, so it can come up with whatever number of ISIS-linked plots is needed to further the agenda of multiple government agencies.

As for "open terrorism investigations," it would be much more helpful if the FBI didn't term nearly everything it does an "investigation," even when there's nothing worth investigating. As we've covered here before, there are a few different types of investigations the FBI engages in, starting with something that looks a whole lot like an investigation (in terms of information the FBI can obtain), but really isn't. These "investigations" are called assessments, and it takes almost nothing at all to get one of these underway. Emily Hockett and Michael German of Just Security explain how the guidelines for assessments changed radically after the passage of the FISA Amendments Act in 2008.

The most drastic change came in 2008 with a set of guidelines issued by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who today is an ally of President Trump. The 2008 Guidelines created a new type of investigation called an “assessment.” Assessments permit physical surveillance, database searches, interviews, racial and ethnic mapping, and the recruitment and tasking of informants without any factual or criminal predicate, that is, without any objective basis to suspect the target of the investigation has violated any law, or is likely to in the future.

Because Kelly's statement doesn't clearly define what sort of investigations the FBI is engaged in, it's quite possible the FBI only has assessments underway in several states. Rather than portray the nation as a hotbed of potential terrorism, the presence of assessments indicates nothing at all. That the FBI can engage in surveillance without "any factual or criminal predicate" is disturbing enough. Misrepresenting the depth of these investigations to further a narrative of fear is carelessness at best. It's deeply dishonest at worst.

But even if we are to take the DHS head's word at face value -- that the FBI actually has real investigations opened in all 50 states, the word "investigation" still doesn't mean much. It should never be assumed an investigation is actually an indicator of terrorist activity. There are also "preliminary investigations" -- a step above assessments but below the FBI's standard for an actual investigation. These, too, can be based on almost nothing.

Preliminary investigations require only “information or an allegation,” and contrary to Comey’s testimony, the allegation does not need to be “credible.” A 2010 Inspector General report found the FBI opened preliminary investigations on political advocacy organizations based on mere speculation that the subjects might commit a crime in the future, and the agents themselves often made the required “allegations.”

Comey's statement -- the one cited by John Kelly -- claimed all FBI investigations need "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis…" This obviously isn't true. Using the presence of FBI investigations to support claims of a persistent terrorist threat gives the FBI far too much credit.

The extremely low bar the FBI must avoid tripping over on its way to unwarranted (in both senses of the word) surveillance gives it plenty of busywork to keep agents and analysts busy. It does not, however, make the United States any safer.

From 2009 to 2011, the first two years the Mukasey guidelines were in place, the FBI opened over 82,325 assessments, of which only 3,315 found information that warranted opening preliminary or full investigations.

Given the preliminary investigation hurdle doesn't rise above shin-high, assessments seem to be a convenient excuse for surveilling Americans and adding this to the FBI's overstuffed databases. FBI terrorism investigations are a completely useless metric for gauging the domestic terrorism threat. But, hey, whatever sells more government power.


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  • icon
    Lord_Unseen (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 11:09am

    Huh. You mean relying on the one thing that has to have to justify its continued budget (amount of "investigations") as a metric for American safety isn't a good idea? Pfft.

    Next you'll say that we shouldn't listen to Comcast about Net Neutrality, and that would just be ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 11:34am

    Intended Consequences

    The threat to our nation and our American way of life has not diminished. In fact, the threat has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago.

    He's right, the risk to our way of life is as threatening today as it was. In fact it has gotten worse. The governments encroachment upon our rights is ever expanding, and results from that encroachment in terms of finding actual terrorists, have been, well, negligible. Unless you count the government as terrorists, as they spread fear in a way that would make terrorists proud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 11:40am

    Fill in the blanks..

    "The threat to our nation and our American way of life has not diminished. "

    REALLY??
    From Whom??
    ISIS is almost gone..
    We are paying 1/2 of the EU to Watcht eh gates to our nation..
    Bombings around the world have DROPPED..considerably..

    So Who is this from??
    Others Involved??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 11:44am

    "In fact, the threat has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago."

    Interesting, if everything these megalomaniacs say came true we should be living in some American Dad parody where people blew up themselves yelling "Allah" every 5 minutes. And aliens should be running over people with limousines while hitting fancy honks.

    Instead the joke is on us and we are subject to all sorts of intrusive prods (physically or not) at the border and wherever the Government (tm) says the Constitution doesn't apply. Because reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 12:01pm

    since 2013, there have been 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack our country

    Go back almost a decade, and InfoWars, WorldNetDaily and the sites monetizing delusional nutjobs were pushing "New World Order" conspiracies. And so here in Canada we had a couple shootings - including the murder of a couple police officers - by nutjobs parroting NWO claims.

    The ISIS story comes along, and we had a couple shootings by nutjobs who latched on to that cause. Including the incident on Parliament Hill. These were not "radicalized Muslims"; they were non-Muslim complete losers who latched onto a news story, declared themselves Muslim, were told by the local mosque that "Islam doesn't work that way", and played out their ISIS fantasy anyway.

    Then Trump rallies the inbreds with Islamophobia, and a Trump / Le Pen fan walks into a Quebec City mosque and kills six people. Another Trumpland fantasy had another nutjob shoot up a pizza parlor.

    I wonder how many of those "37 ISIS-linked plots" were real, and how many were merely some nutjob latching onto what was in the news at the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2017 @ 6:07pm

      Re:

      You make a good point.

      Makes me wonder how many of those "justifications for bombing/invading country X" were real, and how many were merely some nutjob latching onto what was in the news at the time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 10:12am

        Re: Re:

        None were justified, absolutely none. If you analize each one of them there was always some natural resource or big business at stake. In Syria today is the control of those gas pipes.

        Wars are never about ideology, never about religion, never about dictators, never about the innocent and the oppressed...wars are ALWAYS about natural resources or the control of them.

        -Chombs

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      They are ALL latching to the "new enemy in town" story. The USA government provides the latch.
      - Chombs

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 12:54pm

    'there have been 37 ISIS-linked plots to attack our country'

    And how many were conceived and funded wholly by the FBI?
    How many had Judges blast the state for suckering in people who lacked the mental capacity to understand what they were being asked to do?
    How many were terrorism because the person was brown, not because of any ideology?
    How many did the FBI have to loan the suspect the money so they could get them for sending material support?

    Perhaps we need to demand more than just soundbite worthy investigations that lack substance. With everyone tasked with terrorism to keep the budget flowing, there has been a huge jump in identity theft and billions of dollars lost... but we can't investigate these things as much as some brown kid said something that offended some white woman who called & turned him in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 8 May 2017 @ 3:39pm

    DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

    DHS Boss Drums Up Fear Using The FBI's Useless Terrorism Investigation Stats

    Don't forget to keep your plastic sheeting and duct tape with you at all times.

    FBI terrorism investigations are a completely useless metric for gauging the domestic terrorism threat.

    Right you are.

    The italicized/bold text below was excerpted from a report titled Trial and Terror found at the website theintercept.com:

    Since the 9/11 attacks, most of the 796 terrorism defendants prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice have been charged with material support for terrorism, criminal conspiracy, immigration violations, or making false statements — vague, nonviolent offenses that give prosecutors wide latitude for scoring quick convictions or plea bargains.

    Today, 345 people charged with terrorism-related offenses are in custody in the United States, including 58 defendants who are awaiting trial and remain innocent until proven guilty.

    415 terrorism defendants have been released from custody, often with no provision for supervision or ongoing surveillance, suggesting that the government does not regard them as imminent threats to the homeland.

    At present, there have been 32 such cooperators. By contrast, many of the 296 defendants caught up in FBI stings have received decades in prison because they had no information or testimony to trade. They simply didn’t know any terrorists.

    https://trial-and-terror.theintercept.com/

    The worlds leading terrorists can be found in Washington DC -- 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and the Capitol Building and then across the Potomac in Arlington and Langley Virginia -- CIA and the US Department of War. The war criminals infesting the US government are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent human beings from the end of WWII (eg the saturation bombing of Dresden, atomic bombing of Hiroshima) through the leveling of North Korea with saturation bombing and more saturation bombing in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam onto economic sanctions in Iraq that murdered at least 500,000 children.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-has-killed-more-than-20-million-people-in-37-victim-nations-since-w orld-war-ii/5492051

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2017 @ 5:49pm

      Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

      "Trial and Terror..."

      One must maintain the boogie man if one's livelihood depends on selling night lights to the public.

      "The worlds leading terrorists can be found in Washington DC -- 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and the Capitol Building and then across the Potomac in Arlington and Langley Virginia -- CIA and the US Department of War."

      Next thing you'll be telling us is the actual motivation for all that murder isn't altruistic humanitarianism and the perpetuation of democracy - that the US public is intentionally distracted/deluded by pretty words of patriotism and thwarting the evils of [fill in here whatever name of whatever guy/country stopped doing whatever the US plutocrats told him to do to sell out his people (i.e., evil despot du jour) even though said despot was originally brought to power by those same US plutocrats] - that the profits of war go in massive disproportion to a very few and that the US public pays for all that murder with their sons/daughters lives and their hard earned tax dollars.

      ...because if that's what you're planning on telling us next, you can save your breath - I just refuse to believe that degree of evil exists within the leadership of the United States of America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 6:14pm

        Re: Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

        It's not evil for the sake of evilness. It's ideology. Sides want their religion shoved down the throats of everyone else (or their interpretation of their religion), they want their party platform (even though those platforms reverse themselves with some insidious timing) shoved down the throats of everyone else, they want to feel that feeling that comes when one wins.

        It does not matter that much what they win, so long as they win, except when their position is tied to being powerful longer. It's power they want. And power not exercised is useless, so exercising it is what they do. So they can feel powerful. Taking the graft (aka campaign contributions from groups with more money than the electorate) gives them ability to snow the public so they can feel powerful longer.

        If the elected had no power, those positions would be much less coveted.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 6:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

          Oh, I forgot the bureaucrats. They live their powerful lives vicariously. They get appointed by the powerful elected, and crave that power just as much as the elected powerful do. They just don't have to stand for elections. They have to stand for approval by boatloads of powerful elected persons who criminally (I think) extort money from others that support their position of the week.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 10:02am

          Re: Re: Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

          Ideology your a$$.
          It is natural resources form other countries. Or the control of those.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

        I just refuse to believe that degree of evil exists within the leadership of the United States of America.

        Nice sarcasm.

        That is exactly the thinking of IGNORANT AMERICA.

        Anyone can refuse as much as they want. The facts about poverty, inequality, war, hunger, etc are there.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 9 May 2017 @ 1:36am

      Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

      "...responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent human beings from the end of WWII (eg the saturation bombing of Dresden,..."

      No arguments from me on any of your comment, but I have a minor correction:

      The February '45 deliberate firebombing of Dresden occurred before the end of WWII, and although a joint RAF/USAAF effort, was really the brainchild of Bomber Harris, the head of RAF Bomber Command, as a response to a direct request from Churchill to interrupt German reinforcements moving east, and German civilians evacuating west.

      http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/the-bombing-campaign-of-world-war-two/the-b ombing-of-dresden/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 10:07am

        Re: Re: DHS Threat Matrix is Always RED

        Fine, lets include all deaths accountable to the USA since World War One, shall we?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2017 @ 4:34am

    Fear, the tool that chains us

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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